Things have been hectic of late and last week I hit that point where – and I think back to my childhood and those days where my mum would make spaghetti or stroganoff when she was feeling exhausted (which incidentally are now my comfort foods) – I just could not be bothered to deal with dinner… For me this was a big deal – I love to cook and use it as a way of de-stressing at the end of the day, and for the first time the idea of having to cook did not incite pleasure. I’m sure this is not an uncommon phenomenon and (I hope) many of you are nodding in agreement.
I guess the consequence of this ‘phenomenon’ is the development of the quick and easy meal, of which mothers around the world are the masters. As I mentioned, the regular foods my mother – who is a fabulous cook – would make were spaghetti (I think everyone’s mum makes this), stroganoff, and/or multiple types of stir-fry (including the most amazing fried rice!). Do you have a quick and easy favourite?
Though I do have a cookbook called ‘Fast’, I’m actually going to post a recipe from Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”. A cookbook for which I am going through a phase of pure adoration. It has nothing really to do with ‘quick and easy’ but this wonderful collection of vegetarian recipes that has me drooling each time I open/ turn a page… and all the recipes are achievable (which kind of fits in the theme).
Now, for those of you who are carnivores (and at the word ‘vegetarian’ are ready to tune out), please don’t run away scared – I am a self-confessed meat-eater who has in the past stubbornly stated that I must have meat with every meal… but these recipes make you forget that there is not a shred of meat in sight! Everything I have tried so far from this book has been a success, including this one. I have included the picture from the cookbook (since I don’t have a griddle pan and thus did not end up with nice striped zucchini slices). This is one that is certainly worth having in the repertoire.
Zucchini and hazelnut salad
Adapted from Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”
1/3 cup shelled hazelnuts
7 small zucchini
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1¼ cups mixed green and purple basil leaves
85 g top-quality Parmesan, broken up or very thinly sliced
2 tsp hazelnut oil
Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let them cool down before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with the side of a large knife.
Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave it there until it’s almost red-hot – at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them on an angle into 1-cm-thick slices. Place them in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place the slices in the hot grill pan and char-grill for about 2 minutes on each side; turn them over using tongs. You want to get distinct char marks without cooling the zucchini through. Transfer to a mixing bowl, pour over the balsamic vinegar, toss together and set aside.
Once the zucchini have cooled down, add the remaining olive oil, the basil and hazelnuts. Mix lightly, then taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Transfer the salad to a flat plate, incorporating the Parmesan, and drizzle over the hazelnut oil.